If you are like most holiday-season shoppers, you'll be spending money on gift cards in the coming weeks, and I have some tips for getting the most for your money.
Gift cards have become very popular presents. The National Retail Federation says more than 81 percent of shoppers will be buying at least one, and more than half the people surveyed by the organization said they would like to receive one as a gift.
Most gift cards are a pretty simple proposition. You're turning one form of money — cash or credit — into another form of money that's more acceptable as a gift, because giving a gift card to a certain store feels less like giving someone cash or a check.
So, you're basically buying another form of money, but what if you could buy money on sale?
Well, in many cases, you can. A number of retailers are already offering deals in which they will sell you gift cards that are worth more than you'll pay for them.
That's great if you're buying gift cards as presents, and it also can be great if you're buying gift cards you plan to use yourself.
In most cases, the promotional offers work like this: You buy a certain amount of gift cards, and you'll also get a promotional gift card that must be used during a certain period of time, typically some time after Christmas.
Here are some examples:
Barnes & Noble: Through Dec. 2, buy gift cards worth $75 or more in a single transaction at a retail store, and get a $10 gift card valid after Dec. 26. Gift cards can be used online or in stores, and at in-store Starbuck's.
Applebee's restaurants: Buy $50 in Applebee's Digital Gift Cards online and you'll receive a free $10 Digital Bonus Card. The restaurant chain did not provide details on its website.
Carrabba's Italian Restaurant, Outback Steakhouse, and Bonefish Grill: All three restaurants offer this deal: Buy $100 in gift cards through Dec. 31, online or in person, and get a $20 gift card valid Jan. 13 through Feb. 10. The bonus card cannot be used for alcohol, tax or gratuity.
Dell: For every $400 in Dell “eGift Cards” purchased through Nov. 27, get a $75 promotional eGift Card that must be used within 90 days. (Note: It's hard to find this on Dell's website. Go directly to https://dell.cashstar.com).
Ruby Tuesday restaurants: Buy $50 in gift cards online through Dec. 31 and get a $15 coupon valid Jan. 2 through Feb. 28.
In addition to promotional gift card offers, there are some other ways to buy gift cards or vouchers for less than face value. That can help stretch your gift budget, or save you money on your own purchases.
A few examples:
If you're an AAA member, you can buy movie tickets for Regal Cinemas for $8 each, online or at AAA locations. That's a 20 percent discount from the ticket price at the theater, or five tickets for the price of four. The tickets do not expire. You can also buy the “premier super saver” tickets directly from Regal online for $7.50 each, but the minimum purchase is 50 tickets.
If you shop at Harris Teeter and belong to the grocery chain's “VIC” loyalty program, each time you spend $40 at the store, you can buy a $25 gas card for $20. That deal can save you a lot of money on gas, and if you're eligible to buy more gas cards than you can use yourself, they can be good presents and a convenient way to give holiday gratuities to people such as newspaper carriers.
Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.